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The heart of the estate

Achieving the vision for The Laird’s Table

The restaurant is now a key part of Craufurdland Castle and Country Estate, with Barclays funding helping it to thrive. 

When The Laird’s Table opened at Craufurdland Castle and Country Estate in June 2018, it marked the fulfilment of a longstanding ambition for owner Simon Craufurd.

The restaurant showcases the 800-year history of the Craufurd family’s ownership of the Scottish estate. It’s decorated with items from the main house, has tables made from a tree that came from the lawn, and features a menu based on locally sourced seasonal ingredients.

However, getting to this point hasn’t been easy. After taking over the management of the estate 15 years ago, Simon quickly identified a location where he wanted to open a restaurant. But his original attempt to build one on the site was thwarted by problems caused by poor construction work.

“We’d been focusing on how to fix the broken building, but then we redeveloped the model to concentrate on what we wanted to achieve for the business,” says Simon. “That focused our efforts, and led to the business plan that we put forward to Barclays.”

The benefit of local knowledge

Relationship Director Scot Howie visited Simon to talk the project through. Having lived close to the estate, he was well aware of its potential to draw in customers from the surrounding area. He was also able to structure the finance in a way that is helping The Laird’s Table to thrive.

“For the first three years we’re paying interest only, with an understanding that after then we will restructure to include repayments,” says Simon. “It means we can concentrate on maximising the efficiency of the business, rather than taking significant sums out of it to repay the loan. It makes a huge difference.”

With The Laird’s Table now open for business, Simon is beginning to see the fruits of his labour. Weekday customers have already risen from around 40 to 100-120. At the weekend, customer numbers are approaching 300, with tables being turned several times during the day.

It’s also becoming popular with people visiting the estate for other reasons. Craufurdland has a variety of additional businesses including luxury self-catering accommodation, dog boarding and woodland burials. The estate has also organised ‘mud runs’ for the last seven years and is looking to develop parts of Craufurdland Castle into spaces suitable for corporate use and small events.

These are all helping to drive further business for The Laird’s Table.

“Every bit of footfall we bring onto the estate is having a positive benefit,” says Simon.

The value of a strong relationship

The success is a justified reward for some difficult moments during the development. The project went over-budget, meaning that the original £475,000 loan had to be supplemented with an additional £172,000.

“Those aren’t nice conversations to have, but the whole process – from discussing why it had happened to working out what the best solutions were – was easy because Scot had invested time in understanding our business across every part of the estate,” says Simon.

“Our relationship was the key to those conversations going so smoothly.”

Growth plans

Simon is now looking to the future, with some important lessons learned. His top tips for anyone considering something similar are to understand the value of good advice, hold suppliers to a tight budget and have all plans fully prepared.

The next project for Craufurdland is to build a treetop highwire, zipline and adventure course, but Simon’s broader ambition is to turn the estate into a growth business.

Part of doing that involves building a team. The estate has already gone from the equivalent of four full-time employees to 15 full-time equivalents, and Simon wants to create a flexible structure where people can operate across different roles as and when the need arises.

“I’m the 28th generation of Craufurds at Craufurdland,” says Simon. “I’m determined to grow the value of our estate and safeguard its future.”

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